Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fruit of the Spirit Suggestions

If you are going to produce a crop of apples, you don’t just go out and make them appear out of nowhere. No…you go and work the ground (till it up)…get the ground ready to receive the seeds…then you plant the seeds (which BTW look nothing like what comes out…i.e. you don’t plant an apple to get apples…you plant an apple seed)…then you water and give it appropriate sunlight…and God amazingly produces the fruit…in time…not immediately.

To produce the heart-level fruit of the Spirit, you will find a similar process with your heart. You work the ground, get it ready to receive the seeds, and you plant seeds that don’t look like what you will end up with (i.e. if you want patience you don’t plant plant something else). Then you cultivate the environment of your heart.

Constant cultivation of what is planted needs to happen…beware of the hard ground, the rocks, and the weeds that can creep in if we fail to pay attention. Are you cultivating your heart now so that God can produce in you the fruit that he desires of this world? Here are a few suggestions for cultivating the heart for later fruit of the spirit:

To cultivate joy,
  • Ask God to show you how good he is
  • Meditate on how beautiful his creation is
  • Smell the flowers and thank God for them.
  • Have a personal worship retreat.
  • Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
  • Pray the scripture, pausing to meditate when the Spirit leads
To cultivate faithfulness and peace in your marriage
  • Pray together
  • Thank each other regularly (write it down every day: record of rights)
  • Hold each other closely without selfish agendas…just for the sake of affirming the other
  • Don’t take things so personally (most of the time its not a big deal)
  • Offer forgiveness
  • Ask for forgiveness. Admit when you are wrong quickly.
  • Smile and laugh at each other.
  • Don’t get historical. Remember the time you chose to forget how you've been wronged.
  • Watch the sun go down together. Just enjoy the beauty of God.
  • Tell others that you won't (not "can't") do something because you want to spend good time with your spouse.
To cultivate kindness and goodness at work,
  • Ask them what you can pray for (actually pray for them there)
  • Ask God to show you their strengths
  • Begin thanking them for things they’ve done (“I overheard your conversation with so-and-so and that really encouraged me”)
  • Free attention give-away: seriously listen attentively; don’t talk about you
  • Spend 30 full minutes imagining yourself as another person with whom it is difficult to be kind or good (God will hopefully open your heart toward her or him)
To cultivate gentleness and patience,
  • Indirection – stand in longest line at the grocery store
  • Indirection – go the speed limit (tell yourself…I’m cultivating my heart)
  • Work with children
  • Initiate a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English well
  • Put yourself in situations where you can cultivate a selfless heart (trust that in time, God will produce his fruit in you)
  • Confess regularly your own faults (who of us is perfect?)
To cultivate self-control,
  • Ask God to teach you to say no to yourself in small things
  • Indirection – practice fasting (learn to say no to your own body in eating [a basic need], and you will begin to see self-control in other temptations)
  • Inconvenience yourself regularly, and take it not as an inconvenience but an wonderful opportunity to learn self-control that you weren’t expecting (act of service)
  • When someone does something horrible to you, don’t tell anyone about it…ever!!
  • When you do something good, don’t tell anyone about it…ever!!
  • Limit your speaking for a day...see what you learn about others and yourself
  • Don't eat your normal snack or dessert or whatever for a day
To cultivate love,
  • Spend time with God just listening…ask him to show you his love
  • Spend personal time worshipping God in song.
  • Read about how God loves horrible people
  • His love is something hard to understand
  • No conditions…on his love?
  • Begin to experiment with how you can practice this love too
  • Do all these things
Remember that all these suggestions are only ways to cultivate your heart. And this is not even close to an exhaustive list. Please feel free to add your own in a comment to this post.

Word of Caution: You could easily turn these suggestions into rules and regulations to be performed, but that again doesn’t work on the heart. You would be doing the very thing that you are trying to avoid. Richard Foster: “The Disciplines of the spiritual life are a means not an end. The end is ‘to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.’ The end is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).” (Foster, Streams of Living Water, 55)

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